David Michael Jewels: Natural Selection
propose a question — what is the probability of twin brothers falling in love with the jewellery industry so much, they decide to pursue it as a career together? Well, if you were a betting person – I doubt you’d take me up on the odds. However, this is exactly what has happened at David Michael Jewels.
“For as long as I can remember, my Dad has always been a jeweller (on the retail side of things, never really on the manufacturing side.) A lot of the stores he managed had workshops, So I vividly remember my Dad going to work early and my brother and I would be playing with real workshop tools before he would drop us off to kindergarten.”
“My brother and I would be in the store’s workshop playing with real tools…”
Q: What made you both want to pursue a career in jewellery?
“Since the earliest memories we have, have been around handmade jewellery, and due to osmosis, we have always had that interest. Children naturally gravitate towards building blocks and our version happened to be jewellery. It never really stopped from there.”
Q: I love how you use pets for the Lover’s Eye pendants, can you explain your take on them?
“That was a way of taking an old idea and adding a spin; people are in love with their pets more than ever, so we thought a combination would be a great way of modernizing.”
“It’s an idea I really, really love — but they are difficult to make as they need to be personal to the purchaser, I just can’t make one for stock. I don’t want to put a simple frame around them. I want to learn about the client or the pet themselves and design the surround to suit…whether it be inspired by the dog’s favourite chew toy, or by the colouring of the fur.”
“They tend to polarize people — I think people who understand where their inspiration comes from really love them, but for others it creeps them out. I guess some associate Victorian jewellery with hair or teeth without further thought to attachment or symbolism…it’s either a love it or hate it kind of thing.”
“David and I grew up in the ’80s…I’m sure it derives from ’80s skateboard culture.”
Q: Where do you seek inspiration?
“We’re originally from New Zealand, born and raised, which is a small, tiny little country of an island just surrounded by nature. So we grew up surrounded by nature, which I guess is a large influence for us. But we also love going to New York — I just find it really inspiring because its just so different from the nature which surrounds us, I love the architecture and feeling of the buzz of the city.”
“But on a more cultural level…one of the more unheard of and underlying influences for us: David and I grew up in the ’80s. So when people comment on our super bright colour combinations, or just the energy of some of our pieces, I’m sure it derives from ‘80s skateboard culture and the explosion of neon hues. Even graffiti and street art and their characteristic acid tones — bold and magnetic.”
Q: Are you both equally involved in the design and manufacture of a piece?
“We do very much have our own design personalities…It’s a little bit of a misconception, we don’t work together on every single piece. We get together and talk about different design ideas, and what happens is I do the sketching and water colour renderings, and then we make our own pieces from start to finish, unless we get to a stage when we want a second opinion, and then we normally don’t listen to one another.”
“The good part is the journey of creation.”
Q: How did you guys start your workshop?
“We didn’t really have a set plan for what exactly we wanted to do. After moving countries (New Zealand to Australia,) we simply started making pieces from all the ideas we had bubbling in our heads. Without client constraints, distractions…it was all very natural.”
Q: What started your relationship with Betteridge in the USA?
“After a year, we had four or five completed pieces sitting in the vault and we thought if we wanted to keep crafting, we’d better start finding homes for these jewels. This led to us opening an Instagram page and sharing photos from the workshop whenever we could. For whatever reason it just took off…people started following us and about six months later we got a direct message from Natalie Betteridge (of Betteridge Jewellers.)” It was at this moment Natalie asked the brothers if they had representation in America. The conversation eventually led to Michael flying to the U.S. to meet with Terry Betteridge, who immediately fell in love with the brothers’ work and became the exclusive dealer for David Michael Jewels.
Q: What can you tell me about my favourite piece, “Koi Pond.”
“So this was my reaction to loving eye miniatures, but not being able to paint one for stock. It actually started with the aquamarine; as soon as I saw it, I just thought how great it would be to turn it into a pond with a painted fish underneath. It’s really weird to say, but these things happen so naturally…the idea just popped into my head quite genuinely in an instant. It just felt way too easy! So, I actually spent a few weeks to come up with a handful of totally different concepts….but I kept coming back to a koi pond.”
“Our turning point was that one of our other jewels ended up in a Sotheby’s floral sale curated by Frank Everett. I met with Frank on my next trip to New York and had brought a few pieces — the Koi Pond was one of them. He just loved it and asked if he could have it for the Magnificent Jewels auction in December of that year.”
The brooch would go on to sell to an anonymous client.
Q: Will “Koi Pond” become a complete series?
“On another trip to New York, I stumbled upon a Lalique jewel which had a beautiful floral motif. Upon further inspection and inquiry, I discovered it was part of a series of pieces which told a story of courtship. I thought it was really cool how each piece could stand on their own yet offer a complete narrative when grouped together. Again, just instantly the idea blossomed. I really enjoyed making the Koi Pond and people responded so well to it — I thought let’s make more! Let’s make one for each season!”
Before Covid-19 took over the headlines, the brothers had decided to seek out a smaller and more boutique style jeweller. With a majority of inquires coming from New York, Michael decided to fly over and look through different stores and windows for the perfect house to sell their jewels. Eventually he came across Stephen Russell.
“I love that they are smaller, more hands-on, and the jewellery they have in store is of museum quality. I just love their whole attitude.”
Michael divulged to me that there are FIVE new pieces which have not been seen anywhere! These have been created exclusively for the Stephen Russell launch – and I can’t wait to see them! However, with the world on pause, we will have to wait with baited breath to see how the next exciting chapter unfolds for these twin brothers.
Thank you to both David and Michael in their assistance with the production of this piece. To learn more about the designs featured, or to get in contact with them, please visit David Michael online, or check out their Instagram. Images are courtesy of David and Michael Jewels, and Sotheby’s.
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